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Cozy Careers

I’ve been wanting to read a good cozy for a long time. I pick them up, start reading and get bored. The writing is fine, the story is even fine. There are dead bodies and usually a romantic possibility. So…gosh. I know a lot of them lack good humor, but even without that, I usually enjoy an intriguing mystery.

I finally figured it out. It’s a lack of an interesting career. All my favorite cozies have two things in common: Humor and a very interesting career for the main. Elizabeth Peters? She has two interesting characters–Vicky Bliss is the director of a UK museum for most of the series. Amelia Peabody is an Egyptologist! There’s not a ton of in-depth job description in either series, but there’s enough that you get a sense of culture, politics, job duties and the setting is always very interesting. A dark museum at night, stolen paintings, a dark tomb…you get the idea.

Julie Moffett has a kind of spy thing going, but her main, Lexi, also has a very interesting job. Lexi works at various computer companies and that leaves open some pretty interesting possibilities: company politics, various settings, career climbing for a female, interesting job problems as well as case problems, and let’s face it–I have a computer background so I happen to find the setting quite interesting.

The last seven or twelve cozies I’ve tried have all been pretty mundane: flower shop (I love gardening probably forty times more than the next person. I’ve even taken a flower arrangement course–under duress, if you must know, but yanno, it’s hard to get too excited about flowers. Stick’m in a vase and I’m good. As for a book theme, no one has ever died by getting beaten to death by posies, roses or blue bonnets).

There have been books featuring caterers, cooks, sewing experts (yeah, I know I could probably use the tips in that one, but honestly, when was the last time you read a murder mystery that involved a sewing machine that was programmed to be the murder weapon? Hmm. That would be cool, wouldn’t it??? But in reality, until that book comes along, reading about sewing just fills me with clothing envy because the main in these types of books always has great clothes that fit. The last time I had an outfit that fit was NOT when I sewed it.)

I have therefore concluded that the world needs more cozies that involve computer companies, morgues (because that just seems necessary somehow and who could possibly be bored with a morgue??), foreign affairs and any normal job is fine, but make the character a spy or undercover agent too. Because while I love teachers, I just cannot get too excited about a professor going to class all day and then solving a mystery on the side. He or she needs to be a covert operator, spying on the money passing hands in the sports program (because we all know there is money in sports). Or perhaps he can spy on the administration but only while hand gliding over the administrator’s private estate. Once he discovers that rhinos are being stored there for auction to the highest bidder (for their black-market horns) I bet all hell will break loose–especially if he crashes that glider into a rhino area. Gosh. I hope he makes it out alive…

I think it is quite possible that I *never* ever need to read another cozy where the main is a reporter. I’ve read somewhere around 60,000 of them and while the first few were interesting, unless the reporter is on the sidelines of a Packer game spying on sideline betting and then running from a 300 pound lineman, I’m probably not going to read it. But I just *know* that there is much intrigue to be found in sports–surely there is a dead body or two that can be found–and think of all the politics! Think of the backstabbing (literal and figurative) that must go on! There would be enough suspects and red herrings for several books.

I think a rock and roll band cozy would be neat too. But of course the main has to use the tour as an opportunity to get into certain venues to spy and collect information on a much larger case. Perhaps it’s all about smuggled and stolen instruments. And everyone knows there is opportunity to add poison to the catered food in such a place. Or while the band is onstage making music (or noise as the case may be) think of all the murders that could take place! Valuable instruments could be stolen! The piano could be packed with drugs! The neighbor’s cat might have gone to sleep in that piano and just IMAGINE the squawking and howling that would occur when the first note is hit.

I wouldn’t mind reading another cozy where the main is a guy just let out of prison who gets asked by the police to do some undercover work. Think of the danger…is he really switching sides? Or will his old habits run true??? (The book Put a Lid on It by Donald Westlake has a similar theme to this. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you hurry to get to it! Wonderful read.)

I don’t want to read about tea, I want to drink it. Coffee is all fine and good so long as it is in tiramisu and on my plate, not my books–unless the main is a coffee taster who must fly to Guatemala and gets shot at a few times, maybe in Tikal by a monkey, just to complicate matters. I’d definitely like to read about the sordid world of chocolate and that extra special cocoa plant that everyone is trying to cultivate. Such a chase could lead from the jungle to San Francisco. There needs to be a dark and gloomy warehouse scene and one with a vat of chocolate, recipes optional. I’m thinking that a giant hollow rabbit made from chocolate encased the murder victim, and it isn’t until the rabbit’s ear falls off that the body is discovered. That will keep you off your Easter treats for a while…

So. Anyone read anything good lately???

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Posted: February 17, 2013

22 Comments

  1. Hear, hear! Part of the reason I enjoy fantasy so much is that it takes me away from my dull and uninteresting real life. Give me some adventure or something interesting that I’ve no experience of to keep me turning the pages.

    Comment by April — February 18, 2013 @ 9:32 am

  2. I think there are definitely cozies that do that too. Just lately, I’m not in the mood for pet sitting, knitting or the like. I think that is why I like Mrs. Polifax. She isn’t the coziest of writers, but the characters get out and travel and have adventures (most of hers I could do without in my personal life, but they are interesting to read about.) I’m not even sure I’d be all the keen on going to Egypt with Amelia–but I do like reading about it.

    Comment by Maria — February 18, 2013 @ 9:42 am

  3. I think I’d ONLY like going to Egypt if I could go with the Peabodys ;- )

    Comment by April — February 18, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

  4. I totally agree! But I’d go with Peters too. :) She seems to know her way around those parts.

    Comment by Maria — February 18, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

  5. Um, Maria, Vicki Bliss works in Germany, not the UK, at least, after the first book (although one, or maybe two, of the books take place in the UK. It’s been a while since I read them). I agree with you, though. Most of the cozies I’ve read recently have been snoozefests, even though I’ve enjoyed the authors previously. I’ve been re-reading some older books, the Deb Ralston series by Lee Martin (Anne Wingate). They aren’t cozies, although there are a lot of cozy aspects to them. Ms. Wingate is a retired cop and Deb Ralston is a detective with the Fort Worth PD. Her family is involved, least peripherally, in most of the cases and there’s a lot of humor in some of the interactions and characters in the book. The crimes themselves are pretty gritty. I really liked the books when they first came out and was so disappointed when the series ended abruptly about 15 years ago. I was delighted to find the first 9 or 10 of them available in e-format recently. The books hold up pretty well, although some of the police procedures seem a bit clunky now. I have to keep reminding myself that they were written in the late 80’s to mid-90’s, but the characters are still appealing and amusing and the crimes themselves are, unfortunately, all to familiar.

    Comment by Dee — February 18, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

  6. Yes, I think the first Vicky Bliss actually started in the US and then moved to Germany. I think her museum job was in the UK where most of the later books take place. She meets…what is the guy’s name who hires her? The one who eats all the time. Anyway she met him in the first book. I need to re-read from there on out. Details!

    I’ll have to check out the Anne Wingate. I love when regular mysteries have cozy elements and when there are some good page turning events!!!

    Comment by Maria — February 18, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

  7. I checked out SYKM, because I couldn’t remember where the books took place. First book, I remember she was in the US, because she was a Grad Ass/TA at the time. Went to Germany, solved mystery, stayed in Europe. She went to work for Schmidt, at a museum in Munich. None of the books take place in the UK, although she may have traveled there in one of them, or I may be confusing one with a Jacqueline Kirby book. Most of the books take place in Europe or the Mid East. BTW — LOVE Mrs. Pollifax! All the Lee Martin books are available second-hand. Unfortunately, none are Kindleized, but they are, or the first 9 or 10, as I said, are available from B&N for the Nook, so I downloaded the free Nook app to my computer. There’s another writer, also named Lee Martin, so make sure you’re getting the Deb Ralston books. She also has another series, written as Wingate, about a former FBI agent, now a small town Texas Chief of Police, that I remember as being quite good, too. Character’s name is Shigata (Mark, I think).

    Comment by Dee — February 18, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

  8. I stand corrected! Yes, Schmidt! I kept thinking Smith and I knew that wasn’t right.

    Comment by Maria — February 18, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

  9. Well, it gets confusing, because her lover/the art thief, uses Smythe as one of his aliases, so there are really two Smiths in the books ;-) .

    Comment by Dee — February 18, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

  10. Plus, I’m old and somewhat befuddled. And I read the books 20 years ago…except for the first, which I reread as a buddy read here on the block last year!

    Comment by Maria — February 18, 2013 @ 9:13 pm

  11. I’m glad you guys hashed all that out! I remember the US/Germany link but couldn’t remember Schmidt’s name.

    I also remembered the other series I though had interest in because it involved computers was the Turing Hopper series from Donna Andrews.

    Comment by April — February 19, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

  12. I’ll have to check that out. I’ve only read the bird series by her. Thanks!

    Comment by Maria — February 19, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

  13. I’m not sure if I was asleep or not in my earlier post – I seemed to have all my words mixed up. I’m glad you were able to interpret!

    The Turing Hopper books are about a type of AI that helps out the protag on her investigations. They were written quite some time ago so they are a touch out of date but still fun and interesting. I like the humor and the unique investigative techniques used.

    Comment by April — February 19, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

  14. :)

    Comment by Maria — February 19, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

  15. Great topic! I’ve been trying to find an interesting career for the heroine in the cozy I’m writing. All the careers seem taken and I want to find something different. It’s not easy! LOL

    Comment by Yvonne — February 19, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

  16. Don’t be afraid to pick one that is taken–just make sure you use it to show how competent the heroine is! Too many of them are kind of background or hobbies and then I’m left with this sense that the lady doesn’t know anything (sometimes). And if all else fails, stick her in a hand glider…or have those rhinos go after someone…

    Comment by Maria — February 19, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

  17. I even loved Dorothy Gilman’s final series. She was a palm reader or somesuch. A long way from Mrs. Polifax but still delightful. I remember years and years ago wondering why all the books were about doctors or police. Why not a computer programmer or two (being one myself). Then suddenly (maybe 10 years later) everything was about computers. I too am bored with flowers and quilts, but if authors could make computers interesting, it seems like it might not have to be interesting career, but interesting writing.

    Comment by Elisabeth — February 20, 2013 @ 6:02 am

  18. The Clairvoyant ones? I don’t know if I read the palm reading ones. But I agree. She had very interesting characters.

    As I read more, characterization has become probably the most important to me and interesting careers help. It sets part of the tone for the whole book. And it isn’t that I don’t like the tea or knitting or whatever, it’s more that those books tend to have a different tone and I’m not always in the mood for it.

    Comment by Maria — February 20, 2013 @ 8:21 am

  19. Yes, I meant clairvoyant. And you are right about tone. I can usually tell within a page or two if I am going to be interested in these people or not. There seem to be fads, and the small shopkeeper/sewing or baking or somesuch/overcoming recent trauma (divorce or death or job loss) seems to be running its course. I’m not sure what it takes for me to care what happens to these people or not, but I sure can tell when it’s missing.

    Comment by Elisabeth — February 21, 2013 @ 10:01 am

  20. I agree. I can’t always tell what is missing. I can see a plot and all the “necessary” ingredients…and I still Don’t CARE. Part of it is that the job aspect is often just so boring that when reading that part, it is all filler. If the job involves cooking, there is no way to make that “exciting” unless you blow up the kitchen every other page. There’s little people interaction required and one of the last ones I started was a catering book with lots of people interactions…and that did NOTHING to make things more interesting. There was an entire page on truffles (not the chocolate kind) and I was just BORED.

    Comment by Maria — February 21, 2013 @ 10:05 am

  21. I really enjoy copies.
    I have about eight of them upstairs by my bed.
    Just haven’t felt like reading them lately.
    Some books are tried and true cozy books too.
    I don’t read too many police procedural books either.
    I like fluff to make me sleepy.
    A ,reviewer friend suggested a “heavy” book called,
    “Mind Is The Master”.
    Over 800 pages.
    It is a motivational thinking book.
    Lord, wish me luck.
    I would also like to dabble in soap making.
    sounds fun, I think.
    Heather

    Comment by Anonymous — February 23, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

  22. Hi Heather!!

    I don’t read many police procedural books anymore. They do have the “politics” in them but they tend to be more violent, I think.

    800 Pages??? No thanks! My mind isn’t going to be mastering that one!!!

    How did your curtains turn out?

    Comment by Maria — February 23, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

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